Crooks' Best Friend on High Court Is ... Antonin Scalia?

Justice has overturned convictions on the right to challenge witnesses

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 27, 2011 8:08 AM CST

(Newser) – You might not think of arch-conservative Antonin Scalia as a crusader for convicts, but that’s exactly what the Supreme Court justice has become, leading a pro-defendant coalition based on his strict interpretation of the Constitution, the LA Times observes. Prosecutors are especially worried about his take on the 6th Amendment, which gives defendants the right to confront witnesses against them. Scalia has interpreted the right broadly, for instance, once overturning a murder conviction because police testified that the victim had reported threats against her. Scalia said the defendant had the right to challenge his (dead) accuser.

The justice has assembled some unlikely coalitions on such cases; in one instance, he teamed with Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. “This is not a left-right split,” explains one law professor. “This is principle versus pragmatism.” Next month the principle will be on trial again; a defendant is arguing that prosecutors violated his rights because a technician who ran the DNA test identifying him never took the stand.

Antonin Scalia addresses the Chicago-Kent College Law justice Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to Richmond attorneys at a Richmond Bar luncheon in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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